Free school lunch

By Kristy D. Carter - [email protected]

Lunch for all Clinton City Schools students will now be free.

During the board meeting Thursday night, Jeff Swartz, child nutrition director, notified members that Clinton City Schools now met qualifications that will allow all students in the system to receive a free lunch.

This will save parents nearly $350 a year. Students who pay full price for their lunch are charged $1.85 per meal. Students who qualify for a reduced price, pay 40 cents per meal.

According to Swartz, effective Feb. 1, all students who are in Clinton City Schools will receive the basic meal for free. For students who have paid and have money in their lunch account, parents can request a refund or the money can be utilized for the cost of extra portions or a la carte items.

The Community Eligibility Program is a meal service option for school and local educational agencies in high poverty areas. Clinton City Schools is able to offer all students a free lunch and breakfast because of the Community Eligibility Program (CEP).

According to Swartz, the CEP allows eligible schools to provide breakfast and lunch to all students free of charge without the burden of collecting and processing school meal applications. Schools that have adopted CEP are reimbursed using a formula based on the percentage of enrolled students participating in other federal assistance programs.

“Our students will now be able to count on two nutritious meals every school day, without any forms to complete,” Swartz said. “This can help low-income families to stretch limited food budgets while reducing our students’ hunger. This will assist reducing barriers in the healthy development of our students’ bodies and minds.”

For the last 20 years, Clinton City Schools have taken pride in the fact that they provide a free breakfast for all students. Now, the system can add to that pride by being able to provide a free lunch for all students.

According to information provided by CCS, the free meal will be based upon the National School Lunch Meal Pattern, which has always been available for students. This includes one cup of milk, 2 ounces of meat or a meat alternative, a half cup of fruit, and three-fourths cup of vegetables.

“Our students will be provided a meal that meets all federal and state guidelines,” Swartz said. “If students would like to purchase a la carte items, they will be allowed to do so.”

The nutrition department for Clinton City, according to Swartz, is fully self-supporting of a $3 million budget and he works to project all cost savings to students by keeping lunch prices as low as possible. Swartz has always wanted to offer a free lunch to all students, and now the system can.

For the last five years Swartz has requested a waiver to not have to raise lunch prices. When determining the waiver grant, Swartz said the state looks at the department’s three month operating balance and the department’s compliance with all state regulations. Without the waiver, students in Clinton City Schools would be paying $2.35 for full price lunches.

All students to benefit from change

By Kristy D. Carter

[email protected]

Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.

Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.